2008 Favorites

Well, the year is almost over.  That means it is time for wrap-up lists, one of my favorite parts of the year!  What are your favorite books of the year?  

Below are my favorite titles published this year:

 

  • Tennyson by Lesley M.M. Blume- I read this way back in the beginning of the year and it still stays with me. An amazing, haunting gothic tale of the fall of the south, through a young girl’s eyes. I loved it and so did my students.  In my review I said, “This is a novel that intelligent readers will love, because Blume does not condescend or speak down to her readers. In many ways, Tennyson reminded me of Natalie Babbitt’s Tuck Everlasting. “

 

  • Diamond Willow by Helen Frost- A more recent read, this verse novel is gorgeous. The theme of the diamond willow branch flows smoothly throughout the story and is accessible to readers of all ages. Helen Frost is a master storyteller and I can’t wait to share this with my students.

 

  •  Every Soul A Star by Wendy Mass- I love Wendy Mass and I think this is one of her best.  It is a beautiful story with a ton of kid appeal.  Plus, it made me go out and look up more information on solar eclipses.  Plus, I haven’t seen it since I put it in my class library.  My kids absolutely love it, too!

 

  • Six Inningsby James Preller- I don’t even like baseball and I loved this book!  A great book to hand to boys and girls alike, it goes much deeper than just baseball and deals with life. The characters are realistic and easy to relate to. It’s just a great book all around!

 

  • The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Admittedly, I wasn’t a big fan of this series when the news first broke. Trading cards? Online games? It sounded like a lame ploy to get kids to read. But when I gave in and read the first book, at the insistence of my class, I was hooked! This is a great mystery series full of Rick Riordan’s trademark humor and realistic characters who have unrealistic lives. Needless to say, it is a huge hit in my classroom and we are all desperately awaiting the release of the third book in the series!

 

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson- Our current read-aloud, my class and I love Chains! Isabelle is a complex, multi-faceted character and her conflict with the American Revolution has made us all stop and think of our fight for independence in new ways.  See my review here.

 

  • My Father’s Son by Terri Fields- I am a bonafide crime addict. Well, reading about crime, at least. And watching many, many episodes of “Law and Order”. So when I had the opportunity to read and review Terri Fields’ My Father’s Son, I was very excited. And the book did not disappoint! Terri has crafted a fascinating story about a boy whose father is arrested and accused of being a serial killer. I couldn’t put it down.

 

  • The Underneath by Kathi Appelt- From my review: “The Underneath is all at once tragic, consuming, passionate, full of love, hopeful, and alternately beautiful and ugly. Appelt does the almost-impossible, by threading 3 separate stories into one amazing climax that will renew your faith in goodness and love. It is an adventure, full of magic, myth, and mysticism, of sorrow, of family – of life. Woven together like an elaborate tapestry, the result is gorgeous and awe-inspiring. Our first read-aloud of the year, both of my classes absolutely loved this story.”

 

 

  • the dead and the gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer- Susan Beth Pfeffer is single-handedly responsible for many of the voracious readers in my class. I am telling you- hand any reluctant reader a copy of the dead and the gone and they will be begging for more. The companion novel to her Life As We Knew It, takes place in NYC after a meteor has knocked the moon out of orbit. It’s absolutely terrifying, in a fantastic way!

 

  • What I Saw And How I Lied by Judy Blundell- This sat on my TBR pile until it was nominated for the National Book Award (which it eventually won). The nomination moved it up on the pile, as I finally learned what it was about. (The ARC had no blurb or summary!). Judy Blundell has woven an intricate story, full of dark twists and turns down paths you can’t even imagine. There is murder, intrigue, a fascinating backdrop of World War II, racism, classism, and a classic (but dark) coming-of-age story. This is a gorgeous book and one I would love to see used in classrooms over the next few years!

 

I read about 150 books this year, as of December 26th.  These are just a few of my favorites.  Ask me again tomorrow, and you will probably get a different list!  But I would to know what your favorite novels were this year.

39 Clues Live Webcast December 1st!

While checking out my Scholastic Book Clubs order, I saw the following ad for a live webcast with Gordon Korman, author of the next 39 Clues book, 39 Clues: One False Note .

Watch the Live Webcast with Author Gordon Korman!
Tune in as Whoopi Goldberg interviews Gordon Korman, author of The 39 Clues Book 2: One False Note, in a LIVE webcast on Monday, December 1, at 1 pm ET.

Kids from around the world submitted questions for Gordon Korman . . . VOTE ON THE FINAL 5! 

After the webcast, continue the conversation with Korman in an online chat. Tune in here to join: December 1, 3–4 pm ET. (To participate, you’ll need a STACKS account. Register now.)!

 

I know my students will be thrilled!  We are 39 Clues-a-holics in my classroom, so this will be great.  As most of my students will be in math during the live webcast, I am hoping that Scholastic puts the recording up online later in the day.

Love the 39 Clues? Read Chapter 1 of Book 2!

If you love The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) as much as my students and I do, then you will be thrilled to hear that Scholastic has released Chapter 1 of 39 Clues: One False Note online! Though the book is not available until December 2, you can read the excerpt here.

 

What are you waiting for?  Go read!

The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

Back in December 2007, I posted my thoughts on a new Scholastic series, The 39 Clues.   At the time, I was unsure about the idea of a series that would rely so heavily on a website and trading cards.  This past week, I had the opportunity to read the first book in the series, upon the insistence of my students.

The 39 Clues (The Maze of Bones, Book 1) is written by Rick Riordan. Riordan is one of my favorite middle-grade writers because I feel like he accurately captures the voice of the typical middle schooler. He won’t write each book in the series, but he did write the outline for the entire series and the first book.

I have to say, I loved the book!  I won’t bother to summarize it here, as there are reviews all over the web.  But the story pulls you in immediately, sweeping you into the mystery.  My students are loving the series, and would not rest until I read the book.  For the first time this year, they were the ones recommending a book to me, instead of the other way around!

 

For those concerned about the “extras”, like the trading cards, the series is meant to be just fine without them.  While I am sure they are fun and the online experience is enjoyable, most of my kids are reading the book without participating in that stuff.  However, the ones who have signed up for the online games are completely into it.  Too bad adults can’t win the big prizes!  ;)  Maybe a teacher will get to split the winnings with a luck student somewhere down the line, for introducing them to the books.  Wishful thinking, maybe?

Baker & Taylor Fall 2008 Preview

Before today, I had never been to a publisher’s preview. When my school librarian passed on the information about Baker & Taylor’s Fall 2008 Preview, I jumped at the chance. Instead of heading to school this morning, I headed up to Bridgewater, NJ to attend the event.

The preview was held at Arbor Glen, an adult living residence in Bridgewater, down the road from their warehouse. Unfortunately, the warehouse is under construction, so they were unable to offer tours like they normally do. But you know what? That is more than ok, because Arbor Glen was gorgeous! I was about ready to move in by the end of the day.

The event was held in a conference room, and I was thrilled to find water, coffee, muffins, and various pastries. The preview actually lasts 3 days, but I chose to attend today’s session because it was the easiest day for me to get away from my classes. As I had never been to a preview before, I was not sure how it would work. I arrived with 5 minutes to spare, so I grabbed a pastry (which was delicious) and found a seat just as the lights dimmed.

The publishers in attendance spoke one by one, introducing their biggest titles for next fall, with a Powerpoint to help with the finer details. I was was one the few non-librarians in the room, so the ISBN numbers, etc were not as important to me as to others, so I mostly looked at the pretty cover art images.

The morning began with Scholastic. They presented a good deal of titles, but the following were my favorites:
Maze Of Bones (39 Clues) by Rick Riordan- I should hate the idea of this series. I never like series books that are written by more than one author. Online games tied to books seem desperate. I hate it when publishers advertise books as “THE NEXT HARRY POTTER!!!!!!”. Yet, I can not wait to get my hands on this. Can. Not. Wait. The rep from Scholastic was extremely enthusiastic, and never once compared it to Harry. And my favorite part is that the few ARCs that were printed are missing the last two chapters, so that reviewers can’t get a head start on the game! The series will have two books next year, 4 in 2009, and 4 in 2010. The first book will be out in Sept. 2009

Dog Lost by Ingrid Lee- I am a sucker for animal stories. Especially dog stories. This sounds like a tearjerker! “11-year-old Mackenzie has got one friend in the whole world: Cash, his brown-eyed pit bull. His dad won the runt after a long night of drinking and gambling–ever since Mac’s mom died, that’s all he seems to do, and soon he erupts in a rage at the innocent pup, takes her away in the trunk of his car, and dumps her in the middle of nowhere. Mac vows to find Cash and bring her back home–he has to: All strays are about to be outlawed! Little does he know that while he searches for Cash, she’s surviving her own adventures and proving in the process that all dogs–even pit bulls–are born good”.

Along Came Spider by James Preller- A story of two best friends, Spider and Trey, who realize that growing up can be hard when you are different. One of the boys has a learning disability, and when they enter 5th grade he becomes a target for bullies. Is it time for the boys to end their friendship or stand up for each other?

Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins- YES YES YES! The buzz on this one is great. And I got an ARC today! Can not wait to read it. The rep described it as American Idol meets Survivor meets the end of life as we know it.

Kin (The Good Neighbor) by Holly Black- a new graphic novel series. Creepy and a 3 part series. I am looking forward to this one!

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Emperors of the Ice: A True Story of Disaster and Survival in the Antarctic, 1910-13 by Richard Farr- Another one I was lucky enough to scoop up an ARC of. This is a non-fiction book, grades 6 and up, that tells the tale of Apsley George Benet Cherry-Garrard’s journey to Antarctica to study the emperor penguin in the spring of 1910. A true life survival tale!

A Life in the Wild: George Schaller’s Struggle to Save the Last Great Beasts by Pamela S. Turner- Scientist George Schaller is on a mission: to save the world’s great animals and their environments. This biography, illustrated with Schaller’s own amazing photographs, examines the amazing life and groundbreaking work of the man International Wildlife calls “the world’s foremost field biologist.” I can’t wait to get a copy of this, if only for the photographs alone. It looks gorgeous!

Charlesbridge
Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen- Jane Yolen. Enough said. I will definitely be ordering this title!

Random House
Moxy Maxwell Does Not Love Writing Thank-you Notes by Peggy Gifford- I loved the first Moxy Maxwell book. Moxy’s voice was so like my little sister’s that I had to love her! The rep told us, in hushed tones, that this one is even better than the first!

Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman by Marc Tyler Nobleman- The true story of Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, two Depression-era teens who created Superman, and their quest to find a publisher willing to take a chance on a new medium- comic books. In the end, they sold the rights to DC Comics for $130. Yes, you read that number right!

Those are only a handful of the books I saw today. I wrote down pages and pages of notes, with a lot of books added to my “must-get” list. Fall 2008 looks like an exciting season for most publishing houses!

To be continued later, after American Idol. Coming up, a summary of Lesley M.M. Blume’s author talk (amazing) and the unreal lunch provided by Baker & Taylor (delicious!).

Maze of Bones (39 Clues)

I was reading my YALSA- listserv today when I saw that someone had posted a link to the trailer for Scholastic’s new series, The 39 Clues. Not expecting much, I clicked on the link and was surprised to see that an entire website was already laid out…almost 7 months before the first book will be published!

The video is here. I have to admit- I am intrigued! I am a sucker for historical mysteries, though. I love the “National Treasure” movies more than any logical, intelligent adult should. And I do love Rick Riordan’s writing. Now, I am dying to get my hands on an ARC for “The Maze of Bones”, the first book in the series. I thought it was way too early for ARCs when i went to Mid-winter, but it seems like they must be out there somewhere. And while I am not a big fan of calling anything “the next Harry Potter”, I do like sound of this series and my students love any series books. They also love mysteries. I am hoping this will draw in a few more readers for my class next year.

While watching the video, I also had another thought. It seems that book trailers are becoming more and more popular. While they haven’t hit the mainstream too much, I do think I will show this trailer to my students. In the past, commercials for books seemed like a silly premise. Those were better left to movies and tv shows. However, kids today are inundated by media in all parts of their lives. Are book trailers or commercials the wave of the future? I think a trailer like this one would pull in a lot of students. I also think that trailers for many of my class’ favorite books would be great to watch. In class, we talk about the “movie in our mind” whenever we read our novels. Picturing what you read is a huge part of getting into the reading zone. It’s what makes you feel like you are in the story. So are book trailers/commercials a natural extension of that same strategy?

I hope we see more book trailers in the future. More book trailers that are professionally made and treated almost like movie previews. It’s a great way to get the word out about books and authors and also builds up buzz. Buzz is what sells books. Buzz is what makes my students go to the bookstore and choose a particular book. Right now, that buzz is usually from me or their classmates making recommendations. A perfect example is Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid. As more and more students read the first book, buzz kept building. Then, as we anxiously awaited the publishing of Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules, the excitement was palpable.  A perfect example of buzz building.  Then, as soon as the book was released I had students who raced to the book store to buy a copy.  Other students immediately placed an order for the book through Scholastic’s book clubs.  Without any buzz, this would never have happened.  And if book trailers will build that buzz, I think I have to be a fan!

This doesn’t mean I want every book trailer to proclaim “the next Harry Potter!” et al.  But a quick trailer that I can show after I booktalk certain books can really pull in my more visual learners.  It will be interesting to see if more series publishers go down this road and let us have trailers.  Any thoughts?

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